In Wayne Rooney debut, D.C. United rallies for stunning win



Minutes earlier than D.C. United’s match in opposition to Orlando City started Sunday, Wayne Rooney climbed the steps behind Audi Field’s south aim and took within the heat welcome from a gathering crowd.

It had been 4 years since he arrived in Washington as a participant, however on this second tour, he carried the accountability of a head coach tasked with rejuvenating a staff going via laborious occasions.

What transpired over the next two hours in misty situations rekindled a few of the magic that Rooney injected as a striker in 2018 and 2019. Staring at one other defeat, United not solely tied the rating within the waning moments however gained it within the final seconds of stoppage time, 2-1.

Chris Durkin scored the equalizer on a one-timer from the center of the penalty space, then Taxi Fountas volleyed in from 12 yards, triggering bedlam among the many 15,805 at Buzzard Point.

“The season has to start now,” mentioned Rooney, who was hired three weeks ago however was restricted to a consulting position till he acquired his work visa late final week. “Character is a big word I have used over the last couple of weeks with the team. We need to be a team that shows a lot of character and fight and togetherness.”

After falling behind early, United (6-12-3) confirmed these qualities in a stirring second half and gained for simply the second time since early May.

“That’s exactly what we needed,” defender Brendan Hines-Ike mentioned. “We need to know we can win games. You lose so many games, you forget what it’s like to win.”

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United’s persistence lastly paid off in staggering style. As the primary minute of stoppage time elapsed, substitute Ola Kamara snapped a left-sided cross to Durkin for a rising effort and his first aim of the yr.

“When we got the goal,” Durkin mentioned, “we were still pushing and still wanting to score another goal.”

Martín Rodríguez, a substitute, served a protracted ball to Kimarni Smith, a sub. Smith volleyed the ball from the left aspect into the middle of the field, the place Fountas one-timed it into the suitable nook for his team-best eleventh aim. Almost 4 weeks in the past, Fountas recorded a hat trick in Orlando.

“I am proud the guys didn’t settle for a tie,” captain Steven Birnbaum mentioned.

As a participant, Rooney bedeviled Orlando (8-9-6) with targets, together with a 60-yarder, and a remarkable tackle-assist sequence that cemented his place in United historical past. As a coach, with United present process roster adjustments and the staff on the backside of the standings, his affect Sunday had limits.

What he has instilled, the gamers mentioned, is perception and the liberty to precise themselves.

“A big thing which I’ve seen in my research on the team is when a player makes a mistake, they suffer and really found it difficult to come back from that,” Rooney mentioned. “I understand players will make mistakes — no problem. I want them to try things. I want them to risk the ball in the right areas. And if they make a mistake and give the ball away, try it again. That’s part of the game. Giving the players that freedom of mind and to be able to do that is starting to make a difference.”

It didn’t begin nicely. Orlando went forward within the ninth minute, the fifth time in seven matches United had conceded a aim within the opening quarter-hour.

After a D.C. giveaway in midfield, Alexandre Pato slipped the ball forward to Júnior Urso in stride for a one-timer from the highest nook of the field. With goalkeeper Rafael Romo nicely off his line, Urso delicately chipped it into the far aspect.

In the twenty eighth minute, Romo was caught surging ahead on a protracted ball, and amid a mad scramble by his defenders to cowl an open internet, Pato missed excessive. Ten minutes later, Orlando’s Benji Michel missed an open internet.

The match started to swing with the doorway at halftime of Rodríguez, a Chilean winger who debuted the earlier weekend. Fountas had a wonderful probability to equalize within the 61st minute, however Pedro Gallese made a sensational leg save.

United buzzed with vitality and alternative, culminating with the 2 late strikes.

“Now it’s about consistency,” Hines-Ike mentioned. “Can D.C. United put together a string of results? Or does it go back to the same old same old the last few months? We can’t accept that anymore.”

Here’s what else to find out about United’s victory:

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Romo made his eighth consecutive begin and Jon Kempin was the standard backup, however with the acquisition of David Ochoa from Real Salt Lake final week, the pecking order is about to alter.

Ochoa, 21, is scheduled to journey to Charlotte on Wednesday and appears nearly sure to start out. In that case, Romo would drop to No. 2 on the depth chart.

Bill Hamid, the longtime starter who’s within the last yr of his contract, continues to rehabilitate a hand harm that required surgical procedure June 30. The preliminary timetable for his return was two to 3 months.

Estrada left off roster once more

Forward Michael Estrada was a wholesome scratch for the second straight sport, an indication United most likely is planning to finish his season-long mortgage from Mexican membership Toluca quickly. The Ecuadoran nationwide staff member has 4 targets and 4 assists in 16 league matches (11 begins) however hasn’t scored since May 21.

United has an choice to buy his contract after this season for $5 million. By returning him to Toluca, the membership would clear senior roster house, together with a global slot. …

Forward Nigel Robertha, who has one aim and three assists in 14 matches (5 begins), additionally was scratched. He is underneath contract via 2023. …

Midfielders Russell Canouse (leg harm) and Ted Ku-DiPietro (non-covid sickness restoration) have been unavailable. Midfielder Victor Palsson, acquired from German club Schalke last week, is awaiting a piece visa. …

Rooney’s debut wasn’t the one one Sunday. Ravel Morrison, a well-traveled attacking midfielder who performed for Rooney at Derby County, logged 90 minutes.

Starting on the six-minute mark, a minute of applause was performed in reminiscence of Len Oliver, a National Soccer Hall of Famer and longtime determine in D.C.-area soccer who died July 24. He was 88. Family members in attendance wore jerseys with No. 6, Oliver’s quantity as a participant.

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